Spring Game To Be Spring Practice

Only Healthy Running Back

Iowa's spring football game won't be a game. Because of injuries to running backs Jermelle Lewis and Marcus Schnoor, the "game" will be more of a scrimmage, coach Kirk Ferentz said today. Ferentz also said he has "placed one establishment (which is nameless) off-limits" to his players as of Friday. You don't suppose that has anything to do with the arrest of starting defensive end Matt Roth, do you?

First of all, the April 19 spring game won't be a spring game. Too many running backs are injured.

Then, there's a certain bar in Iowa City that's suddenly off-limits to Iowa's football players.

Too many, as they say, off-the-field problems.

And forget about Aaron Greving of Ames, who quit the Hawkeyes last season, returning to the team to play running back.

At least that was the word over the Subway sandwiches.

While I'm talking about running backs, let me also say that Jermelle Lewis isn't the only one of them who's hurt. So is Marcus Schnoor of DeWitt.

Then, there's the one about strong safety Bob Sanders. He won't be a running back anytime soon. But he did get a look.

Those were some of the things Iowa football coach Kirk Ferentz talked about this afternoon on the telephone.

Because of the injuries to Lewis, who tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee last week in practice, and Schnoor, who sustained a deep thigh bruise the same day, Ferentz said Iowa's "traditional spring game may be put on the shelf this year.

"I haven't decided how we'll conduct the game. It's fair to say we may alter things quite a bit. It may even come down to us having more of a practice rather than a game per se because it would be silly for us to have our backs get tackled. That's not in anybody's best interest.

"But, hopefully, it will still be a festive day for everyone."

Of the telephone conversation Ferentz had with reporters, he said, "It saves me from having to put on a tie (for a full-fledged press conference in Iowa City)."

Even though Ferentz made a few other jokes during the session, it wasn't all fun and games.

"Basically, obviously I'm not pleased," he said while speaking of the incident at a bar in Iowa City involving starting defensive end Matt Roth.

The 20-year-old junior from Villa Park, Ill., was charged with public intoxication and possession of a fake driver's license at 1:06 a.m. Friday in Vito's.

Ferentz didn't say it was Vito's that has been declared off-limits, but he did say "I have placed one establishment off-limits as of Friday. I'll let it remain nameless. I don't want to get anyone mad at me."

Chris Smith, a second-team free safety, was charged with disorderly conduct at 1:46 a.m. Sunday in the Union Bar.

"I'll probably put a few restrictions on the football team overall in terms of the hours they keep," Ferentz said. "We do that during the season, and (the regulations) will probably be in effect until school is out.

"It's the same old story. Things seem to happen after midnight. I'll be a little more proactive on when guys are allowed to be in certain places after midnight. We're not trying to put handcuffs on anybody, but there is a responsibility."

As for the injury to Lewis, Iowa's No. 2 running back behind Fred Russell, Ferentz said it happened last Tuesday and not Friday as has been reported in several newspapers.

"It was not a contact drill," Ferentz said. "It took place during a contact period, but the injury was the result of making a cut, not anybody making a hit. The good news is that the repair work they do on these ACL injuries is a lot different now than it was 10 or 20 years ago.

"Jermelle is very optimistic he'll return at full strength, but when that is we're not quite sure. We'll let nature take its course. He may be ready at a certain point next season."

Ferentz said Schnoor, the No. 3 running back, suffered a "significant bruise" the same day Lewis was hurt and "we don't think he'll return to action this spring." So two of our top three guys are not working at that position."

Schnoor is expected to be all right in the fall, but Ferentz said, "We're going to have to count on some freshmen to get the job done" at running back.

Ferentz said the injuries have "cramped out style" at the position. However, he threw cold water on any thought that Greving, who began the 2002 season as the No. 1 running back, might return to the team after quitting early last fall after being injured.

"I'm chuckling," he said before answering the question. "I coincidentally ran into Aaron last week. I took my daughter to get her driver's license, and stopped with her at Subway to get a sandwich.

"I bumped into Aaron and had a casual conversation with him. I don't think at this time he has any intention to play football. Our best option is to play with the guys we have on the roster right now."

Ferentz admitted, however, that "we toyed with a few ideas, Sanders being one. He was a pretty good running back in high school, and is a heck of a lot faster now than he was three years ago. But we need him on defense."

Ferentz added that Andy Becker, a walk-on linebacker from Ankeny will get a look at the position.

"He played running back a little in high school," Ferentz said. Otherwise, there have been no volunteers at the position.

"Nobody has knocked on the door yet," he said. "But you never know."

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